Investigating Student Sustained Attention in a Guided Inquiry Lecture Course Using an Eye Tracker
This study investigated the belief that student attention declines after the first 10 to 15 min of class by analyzing vigilance decrement in a guided inquiry physical science course. We used Tobii Glasses, a portable eye tracker, to record student gaze during class sessions. Undergraduate students (n = 17) representative of course demographics (14 female, 3 male) wore the eye tracker during 70-min classes (n = 84) or 50-min classes (n = 26). From the gaze point and fixation data, we coded participant attention as either on-task or off-task for every second of data. This analysis resulted in a percentage of vigilance time on task for each minute as well as the amount of time that participants spent looking in various locations during the class sessions. Participants exhibited on-task vigilance percentages starting with 67% at the start of class and rising to an average of above 90% on-task vigilance at the 7 to 9-min mark with minor fluctuation. Contrary to the belief that attention declines rapidly during a class, the participants on-task spans were larger and more numerous than their off-task spans. These results seem to support the conclusion that well-structured classes punctuated by student-student and instructor-student interactions can be an effective method of maintaining student attention vigilance for entire class sessions, not just the first 10 min.
Rosengrant, D., Hearrington, D. & O’Brien, J. Investigating Student Sustained Attention in a Guided Inquiry Lecture Course Using an Eye Tracker. Educ Psychol Rev (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-020-09540-2